Friday’s 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic could be paralleled to a trip to Disney World (after all, it was held in Jerry’s World.) The day was spent at an enormous park, full of games and fun, set against the backdrop of the Dallas Cowboys’ castle — the event even ended with confetti.
The Cotton Bowl, a prized tradition once held at the old Cotton Bowl stadium built in the 1930s, has come a long way since Missouri last visited.
As a fan you arrive with some game day butterflies, anticipating the day ahead and with the desire to win. But all of that is taken to another level when you drive up and see AT&T Stadium for the first time. Both Kayla and I had never been to the new stadium and we were just in awe.
"What an incredible stadium, it is a sight to see," Kayla said. "Before game time we were able to go on the field to take pictures, get video footage, etc. Talk about having a moment!"
I can only imagine how the players felt, their nerves probably on a whole different level than our own.
Kayla had experienced that as a Mizzou Golden Girl during her first Cotton Bowl trip six years ago.
"(Cowboy Stadium) was a surreal sight, as I imagined what being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders must be like," she said.
The anticipation grew as we visited the Mizzou Alumni tailgate, where thousands of fans packed the Arlington Convention Center to its seams. The number of fans doused in black and gold, standing in line waiting to get in — along with the hundreds already inside — was astounding.
Missouri fans were coming out in droves to see the Tigers finish out their Cinderella season and to get a taste of the "new" Cotton Bowl.
But as the fans finished out their pre-game celebrations and packed into the other "Jones Dome," our butterflies returned to the service, becoming even stronger as the boys in stripes ran out.
You could see it in their eyes when they took the field for pre-game warm-ups. They knew they had hit the big time.
And when the game became an intense back-and-forth contest, coming down to the final minutes, the entire country witnessed "adult Disney magic" — that is, if you are a Mizzou fan — as All-American defensive end Michael Sam erupted and turned the game and the momentum once and for all in Missouri’s favor with a forced Oklahoma State fumble.
As the ball was scooped up by Shane Ray, we jumped up and down on the Missouri sideline screaming, "take it to the house, take it to the house!" as he ran one back 73 yards to seal the deal in the final Big 12/SEC Cotton Bowl matchup.
"With five minutes left we were able to go back on the field where the atmosphere was tense," Kayla said. "Then Ray recovered, ran it in for a touchdown, and AT&T Stadium erupted in ‘MIZ-ZOU!’ Such an amazing finish to an amazing day."
Ray ran over to the sidelines almost as if he was in complete shock of what had just happened, and fell to his knees right in front of where we were standing. You could tell his adrenaline had consumed him and he knew this was "the big time."
And when it was all said and done and the Missouri Tiger football players celebrated Gary Pinkel’s 102nd victory on the field, I didn’t hear anyone match the Super Bowl slogan, "We’re going to Disney World" — because, heck, they were already there.